ARDMORE, Pa. — Patience, with the annual difficulty of the US Open venue and the way the US Golf Association sets up the course, is always an absolute must. It’ll play an even bigger, more important role this year because of the weather complications.
Due to Thursday’s twin delays – the first was for 3 ½ hours, the second 45 minutes – only half the field completed their first rounds, and even that took a while. Phil Mickelson, who shot 67, teed off at 7:10 a.m. and didn’t finish until almost 4 p.m. But it impacted all 156 players: Everyone had their round interrupted, either by one of the two weather delays, or at the end of the day, when darkness stopped play.
Those who were in the late/early portion of the draw (late tee time for the first round, early for the second) will be forced to play as many as 32 holes on Friday, assuming there are no more suspensions of play. That won’t be easy at Merion; 18 holes in a US Open is a test, just as much mental as physical. Grinding for 22, or 27, or 32 holes won’t be easy.
Those who had early/late start times (like Mickelson) might not even play 18 holes Friday; someone like Marshfield’s Geoffrey Sisk could be lucky to even get nine holes in.
That late/early wave includes Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, and Adam Scott. While someone like Mickelson was able to sleep late and rest for a good portion of Friday (Mickelson’s second-round time was scheduled for 3:41 p.m.), players who couldn’t finish their first rounds on Thursday had to be back in position bright and early. Play resumed at 7:13 a.m., and players had less than 90 minutes until they were back on the course for Round 2.
So what’s all this mean? In addition to good ball striking and an airtight short game, stamina and focus will be needed from the contenders at Merion. It was needed Thursday, it’ll be needed Friday, and definitely needed on the weekend. The cut will be made on Saturday morning, because there’s no chance everyone will finish their second rounds Friday; with no more weather issues, hopefully we’ll be back on schedule by Saturday night.
If someone’s playing well, the long day on Friday could be beneficial. Players in a good groove (say, Luke Donald) want to keep playing. If it’s going the other way, though, it could make for an early exit. Even if the exit doesn’t officially come until Saturday.